Traditional mercy release is detrimental to the local wildlife as the released animals usually are not capable of adapting into the new environment and some may even die soon. This concerns the conservationists as life release may also upset the ecological balance and results in irreversible consequences. Red-eared sliders, also known as Brazilian turtles, are native to the Americas and are found in streams and reservoirs in Hong Kong and are gradually displacing the native freshwater turtles. They are set free in the environment through traditional mercy release or are surrendered by their owners, and thus impact the local freshwater ecology. While in the case of Sabah giant grouper, a hybrid species of grouper, they were supposed to be only found in seafood restaurants but are sighted in different local waters due to mercy release. Not supposed to be found in the nature, the Sabah giant groupers are yet capable of crossbreeding with other grouper species in the water and may cause serious disturbance to the marine wildlife.
Life release, nevertheless, is not always contradictory to conservation. Like the ongoing fish stocking project around the globe, with careful selection of the suitable fish species and stocking site and systematic monitoring of the released fishes, we can regulate the animal releasing activities. This also helps to restore the valuable marine resources and even revitalise the sunset aquaculture industry which leads to a three-win situation. Through publicising the proposal, we have reached and cooperated with the religious parties to conduct the new life release project.
In 2008, we have collaborated with a religious party and have launched the very first “Eco-friendly Life Release” event. Aiming in environmental conservation, we selected the specific local marine fish species especially the juvenile ones as the recommended animals to be released. Shellfish such as shrimps, crabs and bivalve are not included in the list. We have also listed up fourteen recommended local fish species for life release in pamphlet and freely distribute the pamphlets to different religious members.
Over the decade we have conducted over 30 eco-friendly life release with different parties. There is an increase in public awareness of the importance of releasing animals in an eco-friendly way as well as awareness in nature conservation over the year.
We are convinced that through education and good communication, we can foster the awareness and dedication in conservation among the religious sector, despite the difficulties, we believe we can provide a solution to the life release dilemma with unwavering perseverance.